Country Executive, 30% Club
The gender pay gap can only be addressed by equal representation at every level in organisations, and that opens a window of opportunity for more focused action planning on STEM talent.
During this month, employers in Ireland will be publishing their gender pay gap (GPG) in compliance with the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021. The GPG is the difference in the average hourly wage of men and women across a workforce. Outcomes will range from single-digit percentages to more substantial gaps.
Under-representation of women
Organisations with previous experiences with GPG reporting will be familiar with the root causes of the variations. These range from structural biases in policy or the challenges of comparing roles of equal value. Ultimately, the gap is driven by the under-representation of women in higher-paid roles.
Under-representation is a more complex challenge to address, and STEM roles will have the potential to be particularly vulnerable to gender pay gaps until we can address the talent pipeline imbalance.
The action plan is more important than the gap
We know from experience in other countries that driving change to correct under-representation will need more than just aspirational thinking; it needs a cohesive plan that focuses on on driving real change. Fortunately, the Irish reporting structure requires not just reporting of the gap but details of how the gap will be addressed over time.
The strongest opportunity arising from GPG reporting is the access to data, where organisations will have the metrics to understand where the highest incidences of gender under-representation occur and what is driving gender-related patterns within their organisation.
STEM roles will have the potential to be particularly vulnerable to gender pay gaps until we can address the talent pipeline imbalance.
Correct use of this data will provide the basis for more robust KPIs and opens the conversation to the idea of targets, particularly for more balanced representation at the most senior decision-making levels, in line with the ambitions of advocates such as the 30% Club and Balance for Better Business.
Within the STEM space, we need to focus on short and long-term ambitions that go beyond the workplace and into early education and alternative talent strategies. These include re-training, returner programmes and other workplace talent initiatives.
Taking plans from the HR table to the boardroom
In parallel, the reporting and subsequent action planning require board oversight — which brings the conversation to a new level. Ultimately, GPG reporting takes the diversity representation question from the HR department to the boardroom, where ultimate ownership and support for change must sit.